The Game Fair celebrates 65th anniversary this year

First held in 1958, the UK-based The Game Fair is celebrating its blue sapphire anniversary this year. A celebration of the British countryside, the three-day event showcases everything from falconry and ferreting to gundogs and game cookery.

Hosted at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire from Friday 28 July to Sunday 30 July, the family-friendly event attracts 120,000 visitors making it the largest game fair in Britain.

The event was originally co-founded by Colonel Sir John Ruggles-Brise, president of the Country Land Association (now the Country Land & Business Association) and Nigel Gray, a senior advisory consultant at the Imperial Chemical Industries Game Research Station, a forerunner for Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Initially the CLA dismissed the idea, so Sir John offered to underwrite the whole project for the enormous sum of £500. Eventually the CLA felt they could not let him shoulder all the risk so the go-ahead was given. The first event was held at Stetchworth near Newmarket. They expected 2,000 people but 8,500 turned up.

Known originally as ‘The CLA Game Fair’, the event has been hosted at 28 different country estates over the years in all four corners of Britain, from Hampshire to County Durham and Powys to Dumfriesshire. The event’s future was brought into sharp focus in 2015 when the membership organisation announced it was pulling the plug because of financial losses. Luckily National Game Fair Ltd (a Stable Events company) took on ownership and have injected renewed passion and ideas to make its modern incarnation even more inclusive and relevant.

This year there’ll be three famous faces on site - TV chef James Martin is back once again to host lunch in the Investec Enclosure plus he will be taking part in a gundog demonstration with his beloved spaniel Cooper in the Main Arena with leading trainer Jason Mayhew, former international cricketer Matt Prior. Lifelong fisherman, river campaigner and beloved comedian Paul Whitehouse is set to appear on Sunday 30 July to host Sunday lunch, meet fellow fishermen and raise awareness of Britain’s declining rivers. A regular visitor to The Game Fair, Paul loves nothing more than watching the casting demos. Mancunian actor, angler and environmentalist Jim Murray is also making an appearance on the Sunday to promote Activist Anglers, a new initiative designed to empower and educate anglers on how they can make a difference and protect waterways.

According to The Times, “The Game Fair is — the biggest, tweediest, most exotically be-hatted and sweatered, bearded and bewhiskered, horse-trotted and falcon-called, gundog-whistled and fly-cast, tannoyed and adjudicated clan gathering in the country-lover’s calendar,” whilst The Telegraph refers to the much-loved event as “Glastonbury for the green welly brigade.” Across six decades The Game Fair has now welcomed more than 5 million visitors to see what the late Prince Philip once described as: “The most important shop window of our countryside,” and what a shop window it is – combining serious debate, sporting excellence and more than 1,000 exhibitors displaying everything from chutney to Bentleys. If you have a few hours spare, point the car towards Stratford-upon-Avon and join thousands of like-minded friends.

If you have never been before, The Game Fair is a British institution and a must-attend diary fixture that brings together not only rural folk but the town too. Celebrating its 65th anniversary, the event is a national treasure.